Daily Archive: 01/06/2015

Jan 06 2015

Crime Rates Dropped In NYC & Around the Country Last Year

Homicide rates are falling in most major cities across the US, especially in cities like New York, Detroit and Chicago. What is most notable in NYC is that the overall crime rate has fallen in 2014, the first year of the de Balsio administration, despite the end of “stop and frisk,” which was declared unconstitutional as carried out by the NYPD.

While this is good news, the NYPD has continued to throw its prolonged temper tantrum. Again on Sunday at the funeral for slain NYC Police Officer Wenjian Liu, a group of thin skinned members turned their backs to the screen as the mayor spoke. Since the slaying of the two officers on December 20, arrests and ticketing had fallen dramatically in all five boroughs

Police union leaders have denied the declines represent any organized work action, though they have urged their members to put their own safety first, which could curb enforcement in all but the clearest situations that called for an arrest.

The sustained declines, however, suggest something of a coordinated effort, even if it was not sanctioned by union leaders.

“People are talking to each other,” Edward D. Mullins, president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, said on Sunday. “It became contagious.”

Even though both the mayor and his police commissioner William Bratton are touting  “Broken Windows” and a modified “stop and frisk,” declaring the policies are “here to stay,” the slow down may prove that the policies are broken. Civil rights attorney and former Brooklyn, N.Y., prosecutor, Charles F, Coleman, Jr. believes “Broken Windows” is a failure and it’s time to drop it.

At this point, there has been no significant impact to public safety because of the slowdown-during which tickets and summons for minor offenses have dropped more than 90 percent-and we’ve seen anything but the doomsday crime spree that Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch seemed to hope might cause widespread fear among New Yorkers.

Lynch, who leads the NYPD’s largest and most influential union, has been very critical of de Blasio in past weeks, accusing him of expressing anti-policing sentiments in his remarks after the Staten Island grand jury’s nonindictment in the Eric Garner choke hold case. [..]

In many ways, the slowdown is backfiring terribly and should force a bigger discussion about not only the need to revisit the “broken windows” approach to law enforcement in urban communities but also the age-old trend of funding America’s cities on the backs of the poor.

The broken-windows approach to law enforcement, which de Blasio endorsed during the early days of his tenure, is essentially Reaganomics’ trickle-down theory of policing. (Remember how well that worked out?) The idea is essentially that focusing on strict policing of smaller offenses will deter larger crimes from happening. However, the notion that police, by cracking down on low-level crimes like selling loose cigarettes and open containers, are going to deter hardened criminals is a dubious theory at best. This is, in part, because economics drives most real crime more than any other factor. [..]

So what is the real takeaway from the NYPD slowdown where “broken windows” is concerned? We already knew that it was flawed in theory, and we have seen it fail miserably in application. One wild and crazy idea is that this approach to policing and the slowdown are both about little more than power and economics. The Police Department is attempting to flex its muscles to remind de Blasio and the thousands of nonviolent protesters who have dared to speak out against NYPD practices that the city needs them. The message is essentially that, even beyond the prevention of crime, police are still needed to help generate critical amounts of revenue for the city’s operating budget.

These silly games aren’t limited to the Big Apple, however. From as far away as Ferguson, Mo., we’ve witnessed how municipalities balance their budgets on the backs of the poor through the financial windfall created by excessive fines and tickets (which, as an aside, invalidates the claim that there’s no such thing as police quotas). The same thing can be said forWashington, D.C., Philadelphia, Los Angeles and scores of other cities across the country. Pat Lynch is no doubt aware of this, and beyond any ineffective fear tactics, his real play here may very well be an intentional swipe at the city’s pocketbook, which could threaten to hijack next year’s budget.

If anything, that seems like a real crime worth policing.

Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s “All In,” addressed the massive drop in crime, the slow down and “Broken Windows” with author and former NYC police officer Pater Moskos.

It’s time for the end of this discriminatory policy and focus on the real concerns of our communities, jobs and education.

Jan 06 2015

Let the 2016 Games Begin

The 2016 silly season has started early with the GOP clown car filled to nearly overflowing. The new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would love to not let this congress do anything that would prevent a Republican becoming president but with the likes of Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie vying for camera time, Mitch’s main goal is “don’t be scary”

“I don’t want the American people to think that if they add a Republican president to a Republican Congress, that’s going to be a scary outcome. I want the American people to be comfortable with the fact that the Republican House and Senate is a responsible, right-of-center, governing majority,” the Kentucky Republican said in a broad interview just before Christmas in his Capitol office.

Mitch has his work cut out for himself.

Then there is that little problem of the illusion of an improving economy, and falling gas and oil prices.

Editor-in-Chief of Vox.com Ezra Klein and Dan Dicker, energy contributor at The Street.com, joined MSNBC’s “All In” host Chris Hayes to discuss the impact on the 2016 elelction,

Get the popcorn.

Jan 06 2015

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Trevor Timm: The greatest trick Obama ever pulled was convincing the world America isn’t still at war

The holiday headlines blared without a hint of distrust: “End of War” and “Mission Ends” and “U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan”, as the US government and Nato celebrated the alleged end of the longest war in American history. Great news! Except, that is, when you read past the first paragraph: “the fighting is as intense as it has ever been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And about 10,000 troops will remain there for the foreseeable future (more than we had a year after the Afghan war started). Oh, and they’ll continue to engage in combat regularly. But other than that, yeah, the war is definitely over.

This is the new reality of war: As long as the White House doesn’t admit the United States is at war, we’re all supposed to pretend as if that’s true. This ruse is not just the work of the president. Members of Congress, who return to work this week, are just as guilty as Barack Obama in letting the public think we’re Definitely Not at War, from Afghanistan and Somalia to the new war with Isis in Iraq and Syria and beyond.

Llewellyn Hinkes-Jones: Stop Subsidizing Big Pharma

Robert J. Beall, the president and chief executive of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, called his recent decision to sell the royalty rights to his organization’s research a “game changer.” Indeed: Deals like this, in which an investment company paid the foundation $3.3 billion for its future royalties from several cystic fibrosis drugs it helped finance, could revolutionize the way medical research is funded. Rather than the staid model of government-funded institutions handing out grants to academic research facilities, a new breed of “venture philanthropies” like the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation could corral private investment into developing lifesaving drugs quickly and cheaply.

The problem is that venture philanthropy is, essentially, another term for privatizing scientific research. Instead of decisions about the fate of scientific funding being made by publicly oriented institutions, those decisions are being put in the hands of anonymous philanthropists and ostensibly benevolent nonprofits.

David Cay Johnson: Inequality damages marriage

Wedded bliss is becoming an elite privilege

Add marriage to the growing list of victims of government policies that favor the rich at the expense of everyone else. Marriage is becoming less common down the income ladder and more common and durable among the prosperous, analysis of marriage, divorce and other records shows.

Social conservatives say marriage makes for economically sound families, but the empirical evidence shows that, on the contrary, steady incomes and jobs make for sound marriages. Job stability benefits both employers through greater productivity and families through more cohesion.

Marriage inequality also affects children. Prosperous parents lavish investments of time and money for enrichment classes and social activities on their offspring, while poor parents struggle just to pay the rent at the expense of interacting with their children as budgets for preschoolers and child-development programs take hit after hit.

Eugene Robinson: Time for the GOP to Pitch In

With Republican majorities in both houses, the new Congress should begin by focusing on traditional GOP priorities: improving the nation’s sagging infrastructure, reforming an unwieldy tax code and finding ways to boost middle-class opportunity.

When pigs fly, you say? Skepticism is definitely in order. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner have a fundamental choice to make. They can acknowledge the obvious areas of common ground they share with President Obama-thus showing that the Republican Party can participate responsibly in government-or they can throw temper tantrums. [..]

It is perhaps inevitable that the GOP will use its control of Congress to highlight the party’s pet issues-advocacy for the Keystone XL pipeline, for example, and opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Every once in a while, Republicans may even muster the needed 60 votes in the Senate-and force Obama to use his veto. But then what? Passing a bunch of bills that have no chance of ever becoming law is not the best advertisement for effectiveness.

McConnell told the Post he wants voters to see his party as a “responsible, right-of-center, governing majority.” Well, two obvious things such a majority should be doing right now are celebrating the economic recovery and looking for ways to ensure that more of its benefits reach the middle class.

Joe Nocera: The Moral of the Kulluk

The cover story of The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, “The Wreck of the Kulluk,” by McKenzie Funk, is one of those articles that you can’t put down even though you know how it turns out. The Kulluk was an offshore exploratory drilling rig, owned by Royal Dutch Shell, which, in December 2012, ran aground in some of the most inhospitable waters in the world. [..]

As regular readers know, I am hardly opposed to drilling for oil or gas. Yet this particular high-risk venture seems both foolish and unnecessary. For one thing, the world is awash in oil, thanks to a slowdown in demand and increase in supply because of the fracking revolution. For another, the price of oil is so low as to make new, expensive exploration in the Arctic unprofitable.

Most of all, though, we’re just not ready to drill for this oil. As LeVine put it, “I don’t believe we have the technological capability to extract these resources safely.” To me, that is the real moral of the story of the Kulluk.

Adam Lee: If peace on earth is our goal, atheism might be the means to that end

The quiet truth behind the inescapable headlines about man’s inhumanity to man is that the world is actually becoming a more peaceful place. Deaths from war and conflict have been declining for decades – and, if current trends continue, we can make them rarer still.

What mysterious force is sowing peace among humankind? One possible reason is that there are more atheists and nonbelievers than ever before. [..]

Of course, not every atheist is peaceful and not every religious person is violent. Avowedly pacifist faiths like the Quakers or Unitarian Universalists have played an important role in peace movements and, in the other direction, there are lamentably prominent atheists like Sam Harris or the late Christopher Hitchens who’ve been entirely too cavalier about imperialism and military aggression. But in general, the trend is that, as the world becomes less religious, we can expect it to become even more peaceful.

Jan 06 2015

The Breakfast Club (There Ought To Be Clowns.)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover  we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Joan of Arc is born; Samuel Morse demonstrates the telegraph to the public; Commercial airplane completes first round-the-world flight; Figure skater Nancy Kerrigan is attacked; Dizzy Gillespie and Rudolf Nureyev die.

Breakfast Tunes

Jan 06 2015

On This Day In History January 6

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

January 6 is the sixth day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 359 days remaining until the end of the year (360 in leap years).

On this day in 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system is demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, New Jersey. The telegraph, a device which used electric impulses to transmit encoded messages over a wire, would eventually revolutionize long-distance communication, reaching the height of its popularity in the 1920s and 1930s.

Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born April 27, 1791, in Charlestown, Massachusetts. He attended Yale University, where he was interested in art, as well as electricity, still in its infancy at the time. After college, Morse became a painter. In 1832, while sailing home from Europe, he heard about the newly discovered electromagnet and came up with an idea for an electric telegraph. He had no idea that other inventors were already at work on the concept.

Morse spent the next several years developing a prototype and took on two partners, Leonard Gale and Alfred Vail, to help him. In 1838, he demonstrated his invention using Morse code, in which dots and dashes represented letters and numbers. In 1843, Morse finally convinced a skeptical Congress to fund the construction of the first telegraph line in the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore. In May 1844, Morse sent the first official telegram over the line, with the message: “What hath God wrought!”